Lisa's Puerto Rican Rice and Beans
Rice and beans. I think of it as a vegetarian cliche [along with hummus], which is why I hesitated to print a recipe in my cookbook. But in the end, I included my Cuban rice and black beans recipe, because it's so easy, tasty and nutritious. That's the inherent beauty and simplicity of rice and beans, and that's why it's stood the test of time. So many cultures have their own versions, and even within cultures, every cook adds a little bit of this or a pinch of that to further customize the recipe.
Assembling some of the ingredients
My best friend, Lisa, makes kick-ass Puerto Rican-style rice and beans. Her Puerto Rican ex-mother-in-law showed her the recipe, and she in turn, gave me the recipe the old-fashioned way... over the phone, peppered with girl-talk, and without any hard-and-fast rules or measurements.
Annatto seeds coloring and flavoring the oil: after 1 minute
I poured myself a glass of wine and pulled out my trusty Le Creuset casserole [everything tastes better when you cook it in your favorite vessel]. Then I put on some tunes and got to work. First, I added the annatto seeds to the oil. The seeds come from the achiote tree, which is why this flavoring is sometimes called achiote.
Annatto seeds coloring the oil: after 8 minutes.
Look at that gorgeous crimson color! The annatto seeds not only infuse the dish with a slightly earthy tang, they also tint the rice a gorgeous saffron hue. Next time, I'll infuse the oil for a good 15 minutes.
Lisa's instructions: "Stir, stir, stir."
The finished product was delicious, even though I used basmati rice, the only white rice I had in my pantry. I ended up eating this for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the last 2 days – by choice! And today, I'm sad that it's all gone. So I stand corrected. If rice and beans, is, in fact, a vegetarian cliche, I'll have another helping, please.